Byzantine Catholic wedding rich with ancient symbolism
By Nissa LaPoint
With their heads crowned in the name of the Trinity, the young bride and tall groom took their first steps as man and wife around an altar to the angelic sound of a hymn.
It was one of several parts in their Byzantine Catholic marriage ceremony.
Francesca and Joseph O’Loughlin—although neither are of Eastern European descent—vowed to give their lives to each other in the traditional Eastern Catholic wedding, or Holy Mystery of Crowning, Aug. 11 at St. Joseph Church in Fort Collins.
The crowning was a combination of the bride and groom’s Byzantine traditions and Roman rite wedding traditions.
“The reverence and holiness in which the Divine Liturgy (Mass) was done was really amazing and heartwarming,” Joseph O'Loughlin said. “I could not have imagined it going better.”
The groom’s brother, Byzantine Father Michael O’Loughlin, celebrated the ceremony with Roman rite priests Father Steven Voss and Father Tim Hjelstrom. In his homily, Father O’Loughlin discussed the meaning of the crowns used in the wedding.
“When you received the crowns on your head, Christ gave you the sacrament of matrimony,” said Father O’Loughlin, pastor at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in Denver. “Each of you have received what the other one has emptied … just like the Trinity.”
The circular crowns of red flowers and green leaves were connected by a ribbon and placed on the heads of the bride and groom. Then Father O’Loughlin took part of his stole and joined their right hands by wrapping them.
To what is called the “Dance of Isaiah,” he led the bride and groom around a small altar called a tetrapod, holding a cross before them. The maid of honor and best man followed behind to symbolize the community’s support of the couple in their life’s journey.
They circled the altar three times, symbolizing the Trinity. In the center was the Gospel, to remind the couple that in hard times they should turn to it to find peace.
Having received the crowns, their marriage was sealed.
Father O’Loughlin sang a prayer: “May the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit … bless you and grant you a long life, good children, advancement in life and in faith, fill you with an abundance of all good things of the earth, and deem you worthy of receiving the promised blessings through the prayers of the Mother of God and the saints. Amen.”
The congregation watched the nearly two-hour ceremony and sang ancient prayers with the choir.
Father O’Loughlin explained the significance of parts of the wedding and Divine Liturgy.
The crowns are of particular significance because of their symbolism for God’s call to martyrdom in marriage, he said.
“Don’t let those crowns be a joke,” he told the bride and groom, explaining that they symbolize the couple’s dying to themselves for the sake of each other.
They are the most expressive part of the marriage, he said. They are the crowns of royalty, symbolizing their status as kings and queens of a new society—a new family; crowns of martyrdom, signs that they have died to themselves to live for each other and their future family; and crowns of the kingdom, foreshadowing union with God and each other in heaven.
After the couple exchanged rings and vowed faithfulness until death, and the Divine Liturgy was concluded, the couple kissed and left the church glowing, hand in hand.